Skills for tourism

In 2017, the LGA launched Work Local as our positive proposal for a place-based approach to our skills and employment system.

This is needed because every area has unique labour market and skills challenges, which our national system has failed to address adequately. Councils and combined authorities can and should be part of the solution.

As councils are starting to work with partners on their local industrial strategies and associated skills plans, we wanted to provide an update on how these proposals can support specific sectors.

In November 2018, the LGA’s Culture, Tourism and Sport Board commissioned research into how applying Work Local principles could benefit the tourism sector. Tourism in the UK today is worth £126.9 billion, employs more than 3.1 million people and includes a huge export component of around £29.8 billion annually.

It is two-and-a-half times bigger than the automotive industry, a bigger exporter than the insurance industry and growing faster than digital – so tourism matters to the UK economy and to local economies. Every council area has a significant number of jobs generated by visitors, whether they are from the local area or overseas.

But it has historically been seen as a sector that offers short-term, seasonal jobs with limited career paths. It is composed primarily of small and medium-sized businesses that often do not have formal HR departments and can struggle to access existing skills schemes such as the apprenticeship levy.

“Every council area has a significant number of jobs generated by visitors, local or overseas

With up to 90 per cent of employees in some areas coming from the EU, it is also a sector that has the potential to be affected significantly by any changes to immigration laws after Brexit.

Rubicon Regeneration and Red Box Research have been conducting in-depth research into six council areas with significant visitor economies. The aim is to find out what plans are in place to support skills in the tourism sector, where there are gaps in provision and data, and to identify what could be done if a localised skills system based on Work Local principles was introduced.

The areas are: Blackpool, the UK’s most popular seaside destination; Brighton and Hove, where tourism accounts for one in five jobs; Cambridge, where visitor numbers have increased by half over the past four years; Cornwall, which has a visitor expenditure of £1.9 billion; Greenwich, where tourist numbers are at a record high; and Scarborough, where tourism accounts for 17,356 jobs and generates around £730 million for the local economy.

All the areas report common themes, including: limited local data and evidence; a tendency for local employment and skills plans to focus on ‘bright new sectors’; a lack of a consistent local sector voice on skills; a lack of capacity for many tourism and hospitality businesses to engage with national skills initiatives; and the importance of strong partnerships between the industry and public agencies, but a lack of capacity in the public sector to engage.

Despite these challenges, some innovative work is going on in these areas to address skills gaps. Much more could be done, however, if the skills system was devolved to local areas with the powers and funding to plan, commission and oversee a joined-up service that brings together careers advice and guidance, employment, skills, apprenticeship and business support for individuals and employers.

The results of the research will be launched at the LGA’s annual conference in Bournemouth on 2-4 July, with advice for councils and combined authorities, recommendations for national government, and a collaborative offer to the education, tourism and hospitality sectors.

See www.local.gov.uk/work-local for the LGA’s vision for employment and skills

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